At the October 2007 Hull and Hull Breakfast Seminar, I spoke on the concept of “Mutual Wills”. (See my paper, here.) In a recent decision out of Alberta, the Court again addressed the issue of mutual wills.
In Powell v. Glover,  A.J. No. 961 (Alta. Q.B.) the deceased and her spouse left wills that specifically provided that the wills were further to an agreement not to revoke or alter the will after the death of one of them. The wills went on to provide that the estate of the first to die was to pass to the surviving spouse. The wills further provided that upon the death of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse’s estate was to pass to named residual beneficiaries, being children of the two spouses from prior marriages.
The husband died in 2003 and his estate passed to his spouse. She took the position that she was the sole beneficiary under her spouse’s will, and that she has no obligation to ensure that upon her death, any residue was to be distributed in accordance with the prior wills.
The Court had little difficulty in finding that the wills were mutual wills. The Court enforced the agreement between the spouses not to vary from the prior distribution agreement made while both spouses were alive. The surviving spouse’s estate (upon her death) was charged with a trust in favour of the residual beneficiaries of the mutual wills.
The fact that the surviving spouse was still alive did not make the Application premature.
The more difficult issue was what property was charged with the trust. The Court found that the trust would apply to all property acquired by the surviving spouse upon the death of the first spouse. The surviving spouse is allowed to deal with the property she acquired from the other during her lifetime, but is not entitled to divest her property intentionally in order to avoid the terms of the mutual will.